The Instigator
socialpinko
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
InquireTruth
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

Brian Griffin is cognitively dissonant in regards to religion

Do you like this debate?NoYes+4
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
InquireTruth
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2012 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,014 times Debate No: 28144
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
Votes (2)

 

socialpinko

Pro

Brian Griffin is a fictional character on the show Family Guy[1]. On the show he is known for being an atheist. I will argue that his being so contradicts past experiences of his over the show's course.


===Rules===


1. Drops will count as concessions.
2. Semantic or abusive arguments will not be counted.
3. New arguments brought in the last round will not be counted.
4. R1 is for acceptance/clarification. Argumentation begins in R2.
5. BoP is shared between Pro and Con.


===Sources===


[1] http://familyguy.wikia.com...
InquireTruth

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
socialpinko

Pro

First we should define atheism. Atheism signifies a lack of belief in a deity. This lack of belief can either be held in a weak (simple non-belief in a deity) or a strong fashion (positively maintaining that there is no deity). For the sake of this debate Brian's religious belief can be from either camp.


My arguments will be based off of several instances in which God/Jesus are clearly involved/shown and which Brian would have most likely witnessed either first or second-hand. (Note that the contention names are also the names of the episodes which the contentions reference.)


Blind Ambition


In this episode, Peter, jealous of his friend's accomplishments tries to eat more nickels then anyone ever has. This in effect blinds him. After this, Peter goes to a bar to sulk. At the bar, God is hitting on a young woman and in the course of this he inadvertantly lights the bar on fire. Peter, being blind, is unaware that the bar is on fire and ends up saving Horace the bartender which gives him the accomplishment he had been seeking all along.


The reasons that Brian would have most likely known about this are as follows: (1) God's actions formed a major plot device of the episode. Without God lighting the bar on fire, Peter would have never saved Horace or gotten an accomplishment for himself. This lends credence to this not simply being a one-time joke. (2) The bar was far from empty at the time. Surely, there would have been at least one witness to the scene who saw God (or Jesus) there.


Episode found here: [http://familyguy.wikia.com...]


I Dream of Jesus


In this episode, Peter meets Jesus Christ in a record store and eventually helpd him rise to fame and popularity around the world. The episode portrays Jesus in this episode as the literal son of God, not a mere human being. This is evidenced by Jesus' miracles he performs over the course of the episode, such as walking on water. Not only did Jesus become a celebrity of sorts (appearing at the MTV Music Video Awards for instance) but he interacted with the Griffin family specifically. Brian would have to live under a rock not to notice this.


Episode found here: [http://familyguy.wikia.com...]


Family Goy


In this episode, Lois learns that her mother's side of the family is Jewish, prompting her to question her ethnic/religious identity. This also causes much conflict with Peter, a Catholic, who turns against her Jewish identity after having a vision of his father. At the end of the episode, Jesus Christ appears and helps resolve Lois and Peter's conflict by pointing out that Judaism and Catholicism aren't as different as Peter thinks. Was this just some random man breaking into the house? That's unlikely (given that the same character/actor appears as the legitimate Jesus Christ in Blind Ambition and I Dream of Jesus). Furthermore, Brian never appears to sign that he disbelieves that this is the son of God speaking to them.


It's true that at the end of the episode Jesus says all religions are "complete crap". However, this only refers to organized religions, not the existence of a deity.


Episode found here: [http://en.wikipedia.org...]


===Conclusion===


As I've here shown, there have been numerous instances in which Jesus (not some imposter) reveals himself to the world (and the Griffin family specifically). Brian, being of above average intelligence, is clearly smart enough to understand the significance of these reveals. Therefore, being that he is still a committed atheist, Brian is exhibiting cognitive dissonance between his experiences/perceptions and his beliefs.
InquireTruth

Con

Introduction

Like many other astute debaters, I would not be so careless as to accept a debate without some anticipation of what I would be poised to refute. Thus, without any prior disclosure of content by my opponent, I can say that his argument is exactly what I had anticipated. Or, more fairly, what Google had anticipated for me.

So why in the world would I accept a debate knowing full well that Brian, the character in question, has had numerous experiences that give him close to unquestionable justification for believing in some sort of theism or deism? You’ll just have to read to find out!

In this debate, I will be defending four primary premises. If any of the four are independently true or more plausibly true, then the resolution is more plausibly false or inscrutable.

My first argument is that:
(1) We have no psychological data to conclude the presence of cognitive dissonance

My second argument is:
(2) Cognitive dissonance may not obtain In the Family Guy Universe.

My third argument is that:
(3) Atheism can still be a consistent belief in the presence of Brian’s experiences.

My fourth argument is that:
(4) Cognitive dissonance is a weak explanatory hypothesis.

We have no psychological data to conclude the presence of cognitive dissonance

Now, it is important to make the distinction between conflicting beliefs and cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is NOT the state of holding conflicting beliefs, but rather it is a theory that seeks to describe the feeling of discomfort associated with holding two or more conflicting cognitions.

For instance, Dictionary.com defines cognitive dissonance as follows:
Anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs,or the like...

This creates a pretty significant problem for my opponent as the careful reader has already observed. We are simply not equipped with the psychological data necessary for rendering a diagnosis of cognitive dissonance. For it may very well be true that Brian holds two or more conflicting experiences/beliefs, but without incumbent experiences of arousal or discomfort, cognitive dissonance is a premature diagnosis.

Thus, the claim I make here is a very modest one. I maintain that the present corpus of Family Guy episodes does not yield any significant psychological data that would lend to the belief that Brian’s neural states are exhibiting arousal or discomfort with respect to conflicting cognitions. Without this material the resolution is inscrutable. But, one could possibly take this further and maintain that the conspicuous absence of the symptoms of discomfort most often associated with cognitive dissonance is strong evidence against the resolution. But we’ll allow the readers to see through the silence.

Cognitive dissonance may not obtain In the Family Guy Universe.

Living in the actual world, we can see that the Family Guy Universe represents a possible world. That is, though all of the things that take place within the Family Guy world are logically possible states of events, they do not represent actual states of affairs. For instance, teleport devices are possible (and can be made by talking infants) [1], dog’s can exhibit incredible IQ’s [2], the Family Guy universe itself takes place within the molecules of a lampshade [3], The grim reaper (or Death) allows clinically retarded individuals to fill in [4]. The list could go on ad nauseum.

It is not at all clear that in this possible universe that the neural structures of the brain that allow for the existence of cognitive dissonance are the same. For instance, in this video () if you stop the video around the 7 second mark, you can see that the brain depicted here is markedly different than what one would find in the actual world. For instance, from this angel, one should be able to see the prominence of the two hemispheres via the longitudinal fissure. Moreover, the brainstem looks markedly different than a normal brainstem in actual reality, where a cerebellum should be easy to identify. These strongly suggest that the brains in the Family Guy universe cannot be rightfully subjected to cognitive dissonance studies that were formed and fashioned in the actual world.

Even further, we have no cognitive dissonance material that addresses the brain states of the highly aberrant, intellectual canine. Thus, the modest claim I am making here, is simply that we have no good reasons for believing that cognitive dissonance theories that were formed in the actual world obtain in the possible world known as “The Family Guy Universe.”

Atheism can still be a consistent belief in the presence of Brian’s experiences.


My third argument, like all the others, stands independently. As my opponent has already defined two possible forms of atheism, I will not do any of my own defining of the word here. However, as any careful reader may have already observed, there is nothing inherent in either of his listed definitions that omits the possibility of believing what we call in the actual world, “supernaturalism.” Thus, a belief in miracles, heaven, hell, angels and any other positively supernatural event or entity is still perfectly consistent with the belief that there is no such thing as god(s). So Brian may consistently believe that all of the events he witnessed were orchestrated via some form of supernaturalism, without having to believe that God exists. In fact, if it is at all reliable to measure data from the actual world and compare it to this possible Family Guy universe, then we can look at many Buddhists who believe in supernatural events or entities yet nevertheless do not believe in a deity. Similarly, a study by The Barna Group showed that, “Half of all atheists and agnostics say that every person has a soul, that Heaven and Hell exist, and that there is life after death. [5]”

Thus, my modest claim here is that there are very easy justifications that would allow for Brian to construct a consistent epistemic framework that could easily account for all of things he witnessed or heard from others without having to believe in god(s).

Cognitive dissonance is a weak explanatory hypothesis

This point highlights my claim that cognitive dissonance is an incredibly weak explanatory hypothesis for the things that my opponent listed. For instance, Brian’s most noted exposition of his atheism takes place in the episode entitled, “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven.” Here Meg’s born-again conversion to Christianity is hampered by Brian’s official coming-out as an atheist. Now this takes place in the 11th episode of the 7th season [6]. However, in season 8 episode 16 entitled, “April in Quahog,” Brian is caught praying by Stewie and then tries to deny it.

We can conclude that Brian either (1) changed his atheism that he espoused in the 7th season. (2) Brian is a simple contrarian, wherein he likes to disagree with people and pretend to have beliefs that he does not actually possess. (3) Brian is not praying to a deity at all, or (4) Brian is exhibiting a very stark form of cognitive dissonance unlike any typical case.

It could be (1), as Brian is fully capable of changing his beliefs if he is compelled (I think). I also like (2), as I experience plenty of people who simply either lie about their own beliefs or pretend to have beliefs they do not actually possess. (3) seems a little weird, because if Brian was not praying to a deity he would have no reason to pretend he was not praying. (4) is weak because Brian is not exhibiting any of the common responses to cognitive dissonance. In fact, being acutely aware of the contraction, as exhibited by his lying about it, shows that Brian probably does not actually believe in one of the claims/experiences that allow for the contradiction.


1.
http://tinyurl.com...
2. http://tinyurl.com...
3. http://tinyurl.com...
4. http://tinyurl.com...
5. http://tinyurl.com...
6. http://tinyurl.com...

Debate Round No. 2
socialpinko

Pro

Claims to Knowledge of Inner Thoughts/States.


This point is essentially an argument from lack of epistemic backing on my part. Con argues that we don't know how Brian feels inside his mind, therefore we don't have evidence of anxiety producesd from contradictions in Brian's beliefs/actions/identity. However, Con's own example of Brian's reaction to Stewie seeing him praying in "April in Quahog" serves as a rather perfect example of just that. Brian's identity and previous actions/beliefs all point to him being an atheist. However, his action in question (praying in a time of great peril) constitutes a divergence from that mode of behavior which he is obviously not yet willing to publicly (and maybe even privately) admit of. Therefore, he becomes anxious, denying his behavior and giving lame excuses (refer to the video). We don't know the inner workings of Brian's mind but this can't be the only type of sufficient proof. Available evidence points to cognitive dissonance and Con hasn't provided evidence to the contrary.


Existential State of Cognitive Dissonance in the FG Universe.


This was actually an interesting and creative argument from my opponent and I applaud him for the thought. However, unfortunately, it doesn't have much warrant. The first point of evidence by Con is a possible different makeup of the brain in the FG universe, one in which the two hemispheres of the longitudinal fissure are missing in the brain for instance. However, Con offers no evidence/reasoning to suggest that any of these differences would necessitate a lack of a cognitive dissonance ability in FG characters. Con's claim that we have no good reasons to think cognitive dissonance could exist in Brian's case is false in that it doesn't come from brain scans, but from behavior.


Moreoever, Con's suppositions regarding brain make-up in the FG universe leads to absurd conclusions, therefore it should be discarded. For instance, if anyone's brain really lacked a cerebellum, they'd have a much harder time with things like motor function[1]. But of course, in the FG universe, people seem to have a remarkably similar ability to do things like swing baseball bats, balance, and exhibit more general aspects of motor control. The behavior of FG characters in itself shows that Con's brain analysis is off.


Supposed Compatibility of Atheism and the Supernatural.


This argument is simply a misrepresentation of the experiences of Brian's which I showed. Brian didn't see angels or life after death or anything like that. He saw Jesus Christ and heard reputable second-hand accounts of experiences of God. While it's true that one can still be an atheist while believing in some supernatural concepts (the limit of which might be an interesting topic for later), holding a belief in actual deities would not appear to be compatible with atheism. Con hasn't given us any reason to think that you can be an atheist *and* believe in God/the divinity of Jesus Christ.


Rival Explanations.


Con here offers different explanations of a possible exposition of cognitive dissonance on Brian's part in the FG episode "April in Quahog". The first alt explanation is that Brian changed his beliefs so that he was actually no longer an atheist. Now we know for sure that Brian is at least an atheist at episode 11 of the seventh season. The question is whether he changed his religion between that time and episode 16 of season 8. Con, while quick to criticize the evidence for cognitive dissonance, offers no evidence that Brian changed his religion, publicly or privately. For all we know, Brian was still an atheist with hard doubts which he was refusing to come to terms with (as evidence by his denying that he was praying in the first place).


Con also offers no evidence for the second option (contrarianism) other than anecdotal evidence from his personal life. There's no need to get into the third option since Con denies it shortly after positing it. On the fourth option (cognitive dissonance), Con's criticism is that Brian doesn't exhibit the normal responses to cognitive dissonance. However, this is a plainly false claim. Cognitive dissonance is described as being "particularly evident in situations where an individual's behavior conflicts with beliefs that are integral to his or her self-identity."[2] Isn't this what Brian is doing in the scene in question? Brian is a publicly committed atheist and there's no evidence that this image has changed since episode 2 of the same season. However, he is clearly exhibiting contradictory thoughts, causing a rift between his behavior and self-image. This is in fact a clear case of cognitive dissonance, contrary to Con's claim.


===Sources===


[1] http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu...
[2] http://psychology.about.com...
InquireTruth

Con

We have no psychological data to conclude the presence of cognitive dissonance

Socialpinko maintains that we essentially have exceptionally good epistemic access to the psychological state of Brian by virtue of his behavior as demonstrated in his praying and lying as displayed in the video. I would counter that this is actually an exceptionally good example of socialpinko displaying what is called confirmation bias. This is a type of selective thinking whereby a person selects only the apparent facts that confirm his/her prior inferences. This can be seen by what my opponent must ASSUME prior to affirming the existence of cognitive dissonance: (1) cognitive dissonance theories obtain in the family guy universe; (2) these cognitive dissonance theories can be applied without qualification to anthropomorphic dogs; (3) the psychological condition of anxiety as measured by cortisol obtains in that moment; (4) Brian both has an anterior cingulated cortex and an anterior insular cortex that were signaling conflict (5) other explanatory hypothesis are wrong (e.g. self-perception theory). This list could be made longer but I'll need the space.

Now, I can grant the first two assumptions in this argument so as to allow my second argument to stand independently, but the others I cannot. We literally have no access to the neural states of Brain that are unilaterally responsible for Brian's behavior. His behavior is in no way unique to cognitive dissonance theories! If my mom caught me masturbating I would express a very similar response that Brian did, but not because of conflicting cognitions! I simply maintain that we do not have enough psychological access to Brain's brain states or cortisol balance to maintain the actual instantiation of a theory that is itself questioned in the actual world. For more on why the video of Brain does not confirm my opponent's inference, see my 4th argument.

Cognitive dissonance may not obtain In the Family Guy Universe.


My opponent argues that this premise lacks force because cognitive dissonance is not a theory dealing with neural states, but with behavioral states. He also says that my suppositions lead to absurd conclusions, because, of course, cerebellums are needed for motor skills and it would be patently absurd to think that they don't have motor skills.

First, behavior just is the expression of certain neural states and thus has almost everything to do with the brain. Behavior alone offers very weak evidence when it comes to the currency of science. The verity of this claim is measured by being able to replicate behavior without replicating any of the conditions necessary for cognitive dissonance (think actors, video games, etc). For instance, anxiety is a psychological condition caused by the zona fasciculate of the adrenal gland which is ultimately controlled by the brain's hypothalamus [1]. Thus, if we have good reasons for believing that the brains of the Family Guy universe are not compositely the same as those in the actual world, we have no way of determining the existence of cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, the very fact that these Family Guy characters can operate with motor skills without any visible cerebellum is positive evidence that their brains are completely functionally and structurally different than the brains of the actual world. My opponent simply mistakes physical possibility with logical possibility when dealing with the Family Guy universe (think modal logic). It is actually this wrong-thinking that would lead to absurd conclusions, given that the laws of physics and other physical states that govern our universe have been repeatedly shown not to obtain in the Family Guy universe [2][3][4].

Atheism can still be a consistent belief in the presence of Brian's experiences.


My opponent maintains that I'm guilty of misrepresenting Brain's experiences. This is positively false. I fully admit that Brian saw a man claiming to be Jesus performing miracles. I did not assume, like he, that this person is therefore God. It is true that Christianity maintains the deity of Christ, but Brian would not be irrational for denying that, even given the apparent supernatural events for which this person instantiated. I found it ironic, too, that my opponent thinks that it would be irrational for Brian to deny supposedly reliable second-hand testimony of the existence of God. As a theologian myself, there is no shortage of otherwise rational people doing just that in the actual world.

I simply maintain that supernatural explanations could account for the events that Brian both saw and apparently heard second-hand (though second-hand testimony is an argument from complete silence). Brian can still justifiably deny the divinity of Christ and the presence of some sort of God figure. Remember the framework for which this all takes place, too. Brian is used to crazy things happening and shows himself to be superstitious when he pleads with Peter not to profane the skull of a Native American skull found in the backyard (see sn: 4 ep: 26 wherein the following supernatural events occur and Brian is present: paranormal furniture movement, talking tv static, Peter rips his face off to reveal someone else's face) [5]. The ironic thing is that it was actually Brian who tried to convince Lois that they had a Poltergeist!

Thus, it seems that Brian believes in supernaturalism but denies the existence of a deity. With supernaturalism at his epistemic disposal and the inherent craziness of the possible Family Guy universe that he occupies, all of the events that he has witnessed and heard can be rationally consistent.

Cognitive dissonance is a weak explanatory hypothesis


Here my opponent tries to assert that Brian actually did exhibit cognitive dissonance and that the other hypotheses can be discarded out-of-hand for lack of evidence. This is absurd, of course, as my hypotheses have equal explanatory scope and equal evidence to the hypothesis of cognitive dissonance. This is simply another example of my opponent's confirmation bias.

My opponent suggests that cognitive dissonance is "particularly evident in situations where an individual's behavior
conflicts with beliefs that are integral to his or her self-identity." This fails to see that all of my listed hypotheses would also be "particularly evident" under similar and undiscernibly different circumstances. A gay person lying about his sexual identity is "particularly evident" in situations where his behavior conflicts with the beliefs he told others he held. In fact, in situations where no evidence beyond the presence of a conflict of belief and behavior, I maintain that it is prima facie more likely that an individual of above average intelligence is lying rather than displaying cognitive dissonance (like the gay example).

Moreover, the hypothesis of cognitive dissonance actually proves very weak in the circumstance in question because
Brian does NOT show any signs of reduction that are said to follow from cognitive dissonance. He would know that he was praying and he would know that this conflicts with his supposed atheism. Festinger, the proprietor of the theory, maintained that people would take measures of changing beliefs or behaviors or acquiring new information to increase consonance (I am aware of no such steps towards reduction through the Family Guy series) [6]. Furthermore, and perhaps generally worse for the theory of cognitive dissonance proper, is that the theory as a whole is less parsimonious to other well-known psychological phenomena. In fact, it seems to simply be an unneeded assumption to be shed by Occam's razor, given that all of the psychological data can be attributed to well-known psychological theories of communal reinforcement, confirmation bias, self-deception, subjective validation, and/or etc.

Sources

1. http://tinyurl.com...
2. /watch?v=BLoIA5SP7pA
3. /watch?v=fqs9DYisSsg
4. /watch?v=1KFAi07A1Ts
5. http://tinyurl.com...
6. http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 3
socialpinko

Pro

socialpinko forfeited this round.
InquireTruth

Con

Socialpinko may have run into some unexpected holiday trouble, a completely understandable thing to happen this time of year. That aside, you’ll remember from my first round that I set out to defend four independent arguments that if any were more plausibly true than false, would render the resolution as stated more plausibly false or inscrutable.

My first argument was:
(1) We have no psychological data to conclude the presence of cognitive dissonance

My second argument was:
(2) Cognitive dissonance may not obtain In the Family Guy Universe.

My third argument was:
(3) Atheism can still be a consistent belief in the presence of Brian’s experiences.

My fourth argument was:
(4) Cognitive dissonance is a weak explanatory hypothesis.

So far as I can see, my opponent has not adequately addressed any of these points and thus, with the compressive power of these four independent arguments, we have an incredibly strong cumulative case against the theory that Brian has exhibited cognitive dissonance.

Since my opponent was not able to furnish a last round, I will not belabor the points and will leave it now up to the judges to decide. I would like to thank my admirable opponent, socialpinko, for his having instigated this debate. May we meet again in the future!

InquireTruth
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
That video in Pro's third round made me burst out laughing.
Posted by johnnyboy54 4 years ago
johnnyboy54
Good deal. Faved for future reference.
Posted by InquireTruth 4 years ago
InquireTruth
My wife doesn't like family guy so I watch it in secret...
Posted by AlwaysMoreThanYou 4 years ago
AlwaysMoreThanYou
Great debate. Favorited.
Posted by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
This could be an interesting debate. Because your opponent could argue that even given Brian's experiences, he's still rationally justified in being an atheist.
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
I'm still looking for someone to debate me on Joe Swanson being a menace to society....
Posted by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
You love your Family Guy debates. I wish I watched that; I love a good tv show debate.
Posted by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
Not exactly. I'm saying there are experiences he's had that would incline someone of average intelligence to not be an atheist. Since Brian is clearly above average intelligence he's being cognitively dissonant in continuing to be an atheist.
Posted by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
When you say "past experiences," do you mean there are things he has said or done that are inconsistent with him being an atheist?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 4 years ago
1Devilsadvocate
socialpinkoInquireTruthTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: F.F.
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 4 years ago
AlwaysMoreThanYou
socialpinkoInquireTruthTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Why did no one else vote on this yet?